Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ART’|Gallery’s tenure stretches into state’s recordbook

When Lesley Silver opened The Attic Gallery on Washington Street in 1971, there was just one other privately owned and operated professional art gallery in Mississippi — Bryant Galleries in Jackson. While Bryant Galleries remains as one the state’s most revered galleries, its founder, Bryant Manning Allen, died in 2006, leaving Silver as the longest-running owner and operator of any gallery in Mississippi.

“I almost feel like a grandmother of art,” said Silver as she spoke about her nearly four decades in the river city. “Vicksburg and I have grown together. When I came here I was in my 20s, and so were many of the people who came to the gallery. Through the years I’ve seen those same people bring their children and grandchildren to the gallery, and I’ve seen how important the influence of art has been to this community.”  

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The Attic Gallery will celebrate its 37th anniversary in Vicksburg on Friday with the unveiling of a new exhibit titled Contemporary Rhythms, featuring the artwork of Jean Blue, Sandra Halat, Ellen Langford, Pat Odom, Susie Ranager and Pat Hankins. The reception will be from 7 to 9 p.m. at the gallery, 1101 Washington St., and there is no admission fee.

To celebrate The Attic Gallery’s 37th anniversary, Silver has invited six artists who have contributed to the gallery for years for an exhibition called Contemporary Rhythms. A reception for the exhibit will kick off at The Attic Gallery beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday, with the work of Jean Blue, Sandra Halat, Ellen Langford, Pat Odom, Susie Ranager and Pat Hankins to be on display until Nov. 15.

Malcolm White, executive director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, said The Attic Gallery is one of his favorites in the state, and applauded Silver for giving many artists the chance to hone their craft, have it featured in a professional gallery.

“We hold her up as one of our state’s great examples of someone who took a passion and turned it into a profession — and gave other artists a chance to make a living as artists,” said White. “It’s a huge milestone for The Attic Gallery, but also for all the art galleries and artists in Mississippi. The work she has done — in what I call the creative corner of downtown Vicksburg — to support regional artists is significant and inspiring.” 

Housed at 1101 Washington St. above the Highway 61 Coffeehouse — which is owned and operated by Silver’s husband, Daniel Boone — The Attic Gallery is not a traditional art gallery in either its ambiance or artwork. Other than on the ceiling, there is hardly a square inch of wall space not filled with the work of well-known and little-known regional artists. An artist who crosses many mediums herself, Silver seems to prefer to display the work of artists who are just as comfortable working with bottle caps as they are with brushes.

“People come here from all over the world and say, ‘I’ve never seen any place quite like this,’” said Silver, who moved to her current location 11 years ago after founding the gallery further south on Washington Street. “Then they always say, ‘What are you doing here? — Why aren’t you in some big city?’ I have very strong feelings for Vicksburg. I feel comfortable here, like I belong here and the gallery belongs here.”

Blue, a Vicksburg resident and former art teacher, has also worked at The Attic Gallery, and said it is so much more than just a business with art for sale. 

“It’s ground zero for the art energy in Vicksburg, and it’s a very important part of this city,” Blue said. “It’s a mind-expanding experience to see this gallery, and I think lots of minds are changed about art after having come here.”


Contact Steve Sanoski at ssanoski@vicksburgpost.com.